A triple-word Scrabble score leads to marriage — and a book

Most books begin with a book proposal. Cynthia Muchnick's began with a proposal of marriage.

Muchnick's hit book "Will You Marry Me? The World's Most Romantic Proposals" began in 1992, when the former Cynthia Clumeck and Adam Muchnick were sitting in the Rodin sculpture garden in Paris.

As it happened, they had shared their first kiss in the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University a couple of years earlier. Immersed in this romantic setting in the City of Light, Adam whipped out a Scrabble board.

That was typical for these two. One of the things they shared was a love of Scrabble. Everything seemed normal, as a matter of fact, until Adam laid down the word "MARRY."

At first the only thing Cynthia noticed was that it opened up a triple word score space. Then Adam pointed out he'd also spelled out "WILL," "YOU" and "ME" on various places around the board.

Whenever Cynthia Muchnick, who grew up in Marin County, related this story for months afterward, people told her one of their own in return. So she started writing them down, just for fun.

There was the one about a man who had a waiter at a special restaurant set a black plate covered by a silver dome in front of his girlfriend. Under the dome, a drizzle of white chocolate spelled the words "Will you marry me?"

Then there was the one about the man who bought air time on the Lifetime Channel and starred in his own commercial to propose, using a montage of himself doing dishes and serving his (future) wife breakfast in bed.

It was only after collecting these anecdotes as a hobby that Muchnick started making a book out of around 50 of the stories, and sold the idea to a publisher. Women have bought it for their fiancés, men have bought it for themselves, married men have bought it for their wives and mothers have bought it for their sons.

Talk shows have also been tying up Muchnick's phone lines since the book hit the stands, landing her as a guest on Sally Jesse Raphael, Mike and Maty, and local shows nationwide. The book has just gone into its second printing and a sequel is in the works.

"It's a real feel-good book," Muchnick said. "We're bombarded in the news about so much sadness. The book shows there's still happiness."

So how is Jewish romance different from other romance?

The book doesn't have a Jewish theme, but since most of the stories in Muchnick's book come from friends or friends of friends, many of the stories are about Jews, Muchnick said.

Without implying any stereotype, she added, the Jewish romances she's heard about often revolved around food — with proposals occurring in restaurants or at dinner, or, as in the white chocolate story, embodied in the food itself.

Beyond that, she said, Jews like to make sure every event is punctuated in some way, such as with theme bar mitzvahs and weddings.

In the upcoming sequel, "More of the World's Most Romantic Proposals from A to Z," readers can even find the story of a Florida rabbi who proposed to a congregant in the middle of his sermon.

However the proposal is proposed, Muchnick advises that it be personal.

The best way to create a legendary proposal is to ask yourself what you and your bride-to-be enjoy doing together, what your favorite movie or restaurant is or where you had your first kiss.

"The story can become your own family folk tale," Muchnick said. "You can pass it on and retell it over and over again."

For those who can't come up with an original idea and want to repeat Adam Muchnick's trick with the Scrabble game, take note: You'll probably have to cheat.

You see, the standard Scrabble game contains only two Y tiles, and Adam needed both of them for "MARRY" and "YOU." So he stole one of them at the beginning of the game.

"I hated to do it," he said. "We're very ethical Scrabble players."

After that, he played strategically, passing up good opportunities in the game in order to hold onto the letters he needed.

"It wasn't one of my better games," he said. "But I guess we both came out winners, so it was well worth it."